GM reveals details on new models

The new, trimmed-down General Motors held a teaser party in the Motor City last week to show off some of its newest products leading up to next month’s North American International Auto Show. No specifications or other details such as launch dates or pricing were offered, simply a “look-at-me session … and no, don’t take my picture.” But I can tell you what I saw.

Now that the General has cut its list of brands to just four nameplates, Chevrolet is expected to account for about 70% of GM’s overall sales. So, the division is revamping its lineup with new products to help it meet that goal.

Some of the models shown have already had their debuts – such as the electric Chevy Volt and the Traverse and Equinox crossovers. The latter two are already proving to be so popular with buyers that GM has added a third shift at its Ingersoll, Ont. assembly plant. Other products shown here, however, were totally new and will be making their public debuts during the Jan. 11 to 12 media days at the Detroit show.

There will be a new entry model at your Chevy store – the Spark. It’s a Korean-built four-door with a small footprint but loads of space for four adults. Its interior has a funky decor that will appeal to younger buyers in particular – its exterior hue is carried over inside, creating splashes of colour on the doors, instrument panel and even the seat coverings. Choose your colour choice carefully as you’ll be seeing a lot of it over the years if you own a Spark.

Chevy’s previous smallest car, the Aveo, has been redone, growing a bit in size and broadening its shoulders to deliver a more muscular, sporty look.

It shares the brand’s new signature front end – twin grille openings, divided by a horizontal bar with the Chevy bowtie badge prominently placed.

The Aveo will be offered as a four-door sedan and a hatchback. A hot hatch that’s been given the tuner treatment is expected to be shown at the Detroit show as a concept.

The Cruze is the next stop along the Chevy product walk. It’s listed as a compact sedan, but it is at the large end of that scale. Again, its styling shares the same brand DNA, with the corporate nose, lots of sculpting in the body panels and twin tail lights.

If something with more room and functionality is preferred but you still want a trim overall product, the new Orlando may be the answer. It’s a seven-passenger compact crossover and its shape resembles the Dodge Journey’s. It offers the functionality of a minivan, but with more styling edge. It is designed to make the most efficient use of the available interior space despite its compact exterior dimensions.

Chevy will continue to nurture its performance image in the new era. It will be taking the wraps off the production version of its Camaro convertible at the Detroit show, where it will be joined by the new Corvette Grand Sport, a high-performance edition of what Chevy bills as America’s sports car.

The biggest surprise of this preview, though, was the unveiling of the next-generation Malibu. Although the current iteration is still relatively new, Chevy is giving it a complete makeover for 2011. The familiar attractive profile remains, but this edition has more sculpting, with more defined edges and character lines on the hood and side panels, while the rear end is totally new, with a high bustle look that stirs memories of a BMW sedan.

Interestingly, no mention was made at this product reveal about Chevrolet’s flagship Impala sedan, although one corporate official hinted we should stay tuned for more on that topic.

Trucks, too, will continue to be a significant part of Chevy’s sales strategy and, peeking a bit further down the road, we can expect to see a new heavy-duty lineup introduced at the Chicago Auto Show in February.

Buick and GMC also provided an advanced look at some of their products.

Buick will be giving show goers an opportunity to check out the new Regal mid-sized sedan introduced at the recent L.A. auto show. Based on the Opel Insignia, which has received more than 30 awards including European Car of the Year, the Regal will initially be offered with a 182-horsepower, 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission. In the fall, a 2.0L turbocharged four packing 220 horses and 258 pound-feet of torque will be available with either a six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission. Initially, the Regal will be built in Germany while the Oshawa plant prepares for production, which is expected to start there with the 2012 model year.

The preview also provided a sneak peek at a sportier edition of the Regal, which is based on the Insignia OPC, a European performance model with such go-fast features as all-wheel drive, an advanced suspension system and manual gearbox. Specific details are embargoed, so you’ll have to wait until the Detroit show to find out which performance features are carried over to the Buick version.

GMC is adding a top-of-the-line Denali version to its 2011 Acadia crossover line. It will be available in front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions, powered by a 288-hp, 3.6L V6. Standard features include eight-passenger capacity, perforated leather trim with polished mahogany accents and 20-inch alloy wheels.

GMC will also be introducing an urban utility concept at the show that resembles a more stylish version of Chevrolet’s new Orlando compact crossover.